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Surpassing Righteousness
Matthew 5:17-20   |   Shaun LePage   |   June 4, 2006
 
 
I.
Introduction
A.   The hype over /The DaVinci Code/ has been almost unbearable.
Since the best-selling book was released, there have been numerous books written about /The DaVinci Code/.
Why are Christian scholars so bent out of shape over a novel—a work of fiction?
Well, there’s a very good reason.
In the preface of the book, Dan Brown—the author—makes this startling claim: “All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”
But what do all these “descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals” add up to?
If all those things are indeed “accurate” then Jesus is not God, the Bible cannot be trusted and the earliest Christians were wickedly deceitful.
B.    I agree with King Solomon.
“There’s nothing new under the sun.”
There have been numerous attacks on Jesus and the Bible throughout history.
The attacks made in this case are not new and they are not grounded in fact.
The sad part is that many will read the book and watch the movie and come away believing many falsehoods about matters that are infinitely important.
C.   /The DaVinci Code /provides us with a unique opportunity actually.
How often do we get the chance to discuss the deity of Christ, the history of Christianity and the inerrancy of Scripture without getting a big yawn?
But, my intent today is not to refute /The DaVinci Code/.
I have provided a few excellent links on our website for those of you who desire to read about those things.
I bring it up this morning simply because the passage we will be looking at—the next section in the Sermon on the Mount—is Jesus’ way of saying the Bible can be trusted.
Every word must be taken seriously.
And if we do not, the consequences are tragic.
D.   Review: The first 20 verses of the Sermon on the Mount constitute the first section: Understanding Righteousness.
The character of kingdom disciples (1-12); the influence of kingdom disciples (13-16) and the authority of kingdom disciples (17-20).
II.
Body—Matthew 5:17-20.
A.   Christ and the Scriptures (vs.17-18)
1.     Jesus did not come to abolish the Scriptures
a)    Notice that Jesus did not stop with the phrase, “*Do not think*…” He didn’t say Christians should not think.
It’s just a simple observation, but an important one.
True Christians do think.
That’s what we’re going to do today.
Tough passages like this require some thinking.
His real point is “*do not think*” wrong things people say about Him.
Consider for the next few minutes whether you have misunderstood Jesus and His work and His message.
b)    Jesus was often misunderstood back then.
He’s often misunderstood in our day as well.
Remember that part of the reason Matthew wrote his gospel was to answer the question, “Who is this Jesus?”
Lots of rumors were flying and lots of misinformation was out there—this is why Matthew’s gospel is such a good book for us to study.
Jesus Himself is clearing up something for us this time.
c)    Jesus referred to “*The Law or the Prophets*”.
This was a common way of referring to the entire Old Testament—the Hebrew Bible.
He’s saying that He did not come to abolish the Old Testament.
The Old Testament is still very relevant and important and applicable to all.
This is so very important: Jesus had a very high view of Scripture.
(i)   In v.18 he said: “*not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass*…”
(a)  The Greek word for “*smallest letter*” is *iwta**.*
It refers to the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet—the yodh.
It looks like an apostrophe in English.
(b)  The Greek word here for “*stroke*” is *keraia*.
This refers to a serif or a tiny stroke which distinguishes one letter from another.
For example, this (b) is the Hebrew letter Beth (pr.
bait)—equivalent to the English letter “B”.
If you erase that tiny little “stroke” (*keraia*) at the bottom right, you end up with a Kaph (k)—equivalent to the English letter “K”.
(c)   What’s the point?
Jesus tells us that the Scriptures are perfect down to the minutest details! Every detail is perfect and important.
In other words, Jesus taught that the Scriptures are inerrant—without error.
(d) Many people will say, “Look, the Bible was written by men, so it can’t be perfect.”
But that’s really just saying, “God was unable to use imperfect men to write a perfect book.”
If God is all-powerful, then it is no problem for Him to write His perfect book through the minds, personalities and pens of imperfect men.
Just as Jesus was a perfect combination of God and man—without sin—the Bible is a perfect effort of God and man—without error.
This is exactly what the Bible claims God did:
1.     2 Timothy 3:16 says, “*All Scripture is God-breathed*…” (NIV).
2.     2 Peter 1:21 (NASB95) tells us, “…*No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God*.”
3.     1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NASB95) is also very clear: “*For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted /it /not /as /the word of men, but /for /what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe*.”
2.     Jesus did come to fulfill the Scriptures.
What does this mean?
How did Jesus “fulfill” the Scriptures?
a)    First, when we closely examine the Old Testament laws, we find three clear categories of law: The moral law, the judicial law and the ceremonial law.
(i)   The moral law is timeless and applies to all people of all times.
Jesus fulfilled this aspect of the Law by perfectly obeying these moral laws.
(ii) The judicial and ceremonial laws applied to Israel’s operation as a nation and to her worship—there are principles in these laws for us, but these were primarily given to Israel.
Jesus fulfilled these laws at the cross.
(a)  The judicial laws were */fulfilled/* the moment Jesus cried out, “*It is finished*!”
(John 19:30).
Romans 3 tells us that His death satisfied the justice of God—the judicial requirements of God.
(b) The ceremonial laws were fulfilled at the same time.
Sacrifice was at the heart of Old Testament worship and Matthew 27:51 tells us that when Jesus died, the “*veil of the temple was torn in two*.”
Why?
Because Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws and opened up the Holy of Holies to all who will come to Him by faith.
I love the words of Hebrews 10:19-22: “*19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since /we have /a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith*…” So Jesus’ death changed everything.
The ceremonial laws of tabernacle or temple worship no longer apply because Jesus “*inaugurated*” a “*new and living way*” to worship God.
B.     You and the Scriptures (vs.19-20).
Jesus spoke in these verses to “you”—the disciples of Jesus Christ.
What should our attitude and response be to the Scriptures?
1.
You are not to annul the Scriptures (v.19a)
a)    Look at v.19: “*19 ‘Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others /to do /the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven*…”
b)    “*Annul*” was translated “*break*” in the KJV.
The root word is to “loose,” so the warning is against those who somehow decide that “*one *(or many)* of the least of these commandments*” found in the Scriptures is no longer binding.
It is deciding that we are “loosed” of our responsibility to obey a commandment.
We “*annul*” the Scriptures when we discount any part—the “*smallest letter or stroke*.”
c)    So, Jesus requires of us the same high view of Scripture which He held—inerrancy.
He condemned those who “*annul one of the least of these commandments*”.
We can’t pick and choose and say, “Well, I’m obeying all the */big/* commandments—no murder, no adultery.”
Even the “least” commandment must be “kept.”
Every letter of every word is important.
d)    What is the consequence?
“…*shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven*.”
This is not a discussion of salvation, but of treatment in the kingdom.
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